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A Party magazine in China, Ziguangge, has recently been bombarded with criticism for "using gutter oil to cook food." The hashtag "ZiguanggeGutterOil" immediately garnered over 200 million page views on Weibo within days of being created. The hashtag, created and spread by fans of a controversial rapper to retaliate against the magazine for criticizing their idol's vulgar songs, turns out to be the "first national joke of 2018."
Ziguangge, initiated by the State Organs Work Committee of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, criticized Chinese rapper PG One's lyrics for glorifying violence, drugs and discrimination against women on its Weibo page. This upset the rapper's fans. The harebrained youngsters mistook the magazine for "some kind of shabby restaurant" and fabricated news that it was "using gutter oil to cook food." "We should collect evidence against it [Ziguangge] and make the hashtag 'ZiguanggeGutterOil' to diss it," a fan advised in a group chat that was later circulated online.
As the fans' reckless move has become a "national joke," how the fabricated hashtag was created and multiplied to such a scale deserves attention. While the internet has provided the public with much easier access to all types of information, news and juicy gossip, its development is accompanied by fresh problems. For instance, Internet Water Army is a term referring to ghostwriters paid to make postings on social media.
Worse still, a chain has already been established where the fabrication of online posts is sold at marked price. It's not news that well-financed companies employ people to promote products, slander their competitors and even delete posts tarnishing their image. Top search items on certain social media platforms, Weibo in this case, are manipulated - the higher one pays, the more likely his topic will appear on the trending list. According to media reports, the hashtag "ZiguanggeGutterOil" is priced at 60,000 yuan ($9,219).
In most cases, the public tends to view top search items as hotspot news and thus are more likely to repost and forward the trending topics to their moments, contributing to a wider circulation of the manipulated stories. In this way, public opinion is manipulated and even kidnapped by those who pay social media platforms for selfish gains.
In addition, the spread of these "commercial" stories, mostly celebrity scandals, has squeezed the room for reports that may concern public life. It's not strange that netizens may be more familiar with celebrities' private life than the country's economic and political changes that will directly affect their life. Social media ought to be a place to discuss public issues, and it's a pity that it has descended into a hub of commercial promotion and verbal battles.
While netizens criticize PG One's fans for purchasing the hashtag, more attention should be paid to Weibo and other profit-oriented social media platforms that sell top trending list. Social responsibility is a prerequisite for a company to thrive and prosper, especially in the internet era. For Weibo and other social media outlets, a balance should be struck between morality and profitability. Blindly pursuing commercial gains will gradually harm their credibility and eventually bring them a crushing defeat.
Netizens, on the other hand, should be cautious against manipulation by fake stories on the top trending list. The trade of top search items will gradually reduce if few respond to these fabricated topics.(news from the global times)